Records on LNG plant in Tacoma should be disclosed, Pierce County judge rules

A Pierce County judge has ruled that records filed with Tacoma officials about a planned Port of Tacoma liquified natural gas plant should be made public, but he ordered the ruling shelved, pending a possible appeal.

John Carlton, an activist with RedLine Tacoma, had requested the city turn over a set of records related to safety risks posed by the plant proposed by Puget Sound Energy.

The utility claimed in court filings that what it told the city to help disaster preparedness planning could facilitate a terrorist attack.

Puget Sound Energy also argued that some of the material was protected by state law that keeps trade secrets from public disclosure.

An 850-page environmental impact study released in October by the city regarding Puget Sound Energy’s proposal for a $275 million gas production and storage facility has been followed by increased scrutiny of the facility.

Carlton drafted a blast zone map based on news reports that other activists have said shows the danger posed by the plant is higher than publicly stated.

The Puyallup Tribe, which opposes the plant, has a separate appeal pending before the state Shoreline Hearings Board. That proceeding was to conclude Friday, with a decision likely weeks away.

In the court case, Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson found that Puget Sound Energy had not shown its city filings are “records assembled, prepared or maintained to prevent or respond to terrorist attacks” and failed to meet several other requirements that would shield them from public disclosure.

Cuthbertson denied the utility’s request for an order keeping the records private, but his Friday order stayed their release in case the ruling is appealed.

An appeal has not yet been filed but is probable, said David Goodnight, an attorney representing Puget Sound Energy in the case.

“I believe we will, but I have to discuss that,” he said.